What Can Eye-Trackers Visualize? — An Approach to Capture the Reality of Search Processes



Eye-trackers have widely been used to judge whether user interfaces fit the searchers' cognitive style, but not often used to examine search processes. We have been using eye-trackers to capture the behavior of people doing information searches on the web and attained an understanding of information search processes as cognitive processes with length and depth. We think eye-trackers are useful for identifying various aspects of information search processes. In the past, eye-trackers were quite expensive and required skill to use. Recently, however, less-expensive and easy-to-use eye-trackers have become available. Now it is possible to gather, compare, and contrast various research methods, findings, and implications about using eye-trackers in behavior research particularly regarding web searches, in order to develop a firm foundation for future research.

We would like to invite researchers from all over the globe who have been conducting a research using eye-trackers for studying information seeking behaviors. Panel members' topics are as follows

Possibility of Using Eye-trackers as Usability Evaluation Tools

Dr. Sanda Erdelez, Associate Professor at the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at University of Missouri and the founder of the Information Experience Laboratory (IE Lab), will share heuristics for performing systematic, comparative evaluation of eye tracking tools in order to select one that is the best match with the desired research needs. This presentation will first provide a brief overview of eye tracking technology with a focus on “how it works,” some of the variables that are being measured with eye tracking, and the software needed to analyze the vast amount of data that are captured. The presentation will also include practical reflections from evaluation and selection of eye tracking tools for acquisition by the IE Lab, such as: experiences with vendor negotiation for short term rental of eye tracking tools, the steps in evaluation process, and the engagement of the key stakeholders (institutional budget decision makers and prospective users) in evaluation and selection of eye tracking tools.

Using Eye-tracking to segment interaction patterns in web information search

Dr. Jacek Gwizdka has been using eye-tracking to investigate how people use search results lists and keyword groups in searching for information. In his panel contribution, he will talk about relationships among the eye fixation patterns, the complexity of information display and the cognitive differences between people. In particular, he will talk about using eye fixations to segment other interaction data into meaningful units of cognitive actions, about using eye fixations to determine words that were processed by users, and about using processing times and fixation patterns to distinguish between different levels of processing (perceptual vs. semantic processing) and different types of user engagement with text (i.e. reading vs. skimming). Dr. Gwizdka's current research is a part of a larger effort on personalization of digital library experience and is funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Studies (IMLS).

How to Use Eye-tracking for Capturing the Search Process

Mr. Haakon Lund has been doing eye-tracking based research in usability including the search process and in gaze interaction where eye-trackers are used as a tool for interaction with computers. Recently, he has been using eye-tracking to investigate the process of relevance assessment of retrieved full-texts in the INEX – project (Initiative for the Evaluation of XML Retrieval) and a major study on trade union members' reading of web pages. In his panel contribution, he will show how he has been using eye-tracking to study the search process.

How Eye-trackers Can Help Us to Understand Information Seeking Behavior on the Web

Dr. Makiko Miwa has teamed up with Yuka Egusa (National Institute of Educational Policy Research); Hitomi Saito (Aichi University of Education); Masao Takaku (National Institute for Materials Science); Hitoshi Terai (Tokyo Denki University); and Noriko Kando (National Institute of Informatics) to establish the CRES (Cognitive Research of Exploratory Search) project (http://cres.jpn.org/), to investigate searchers' behavior and cognitive states during interactive web searches related to a variety of information seeking tasks. She and her colleagues use eye-trackers to capture users' eye movements with the think-aloud protocol. In the panel, she will introduce a post-search interview technique showing video-recorded eye movements superimposed on the search process to elicit detailed internal processes of searchers, the “look zones” for identifying different behaviors of novice and expert searchers; the “scan paths” that are useful for showing how searchers go through the search results pages; and various methodologies explored by the CRES project.

Questions for Panelists:

What made you interested in using eye-trackers in your research?

What did you want to attain by using eye-trackers?

Did you capture what you expected ?

Did eye-trackers reveal anything you did not anticipate?

Are there any gaps between what you wanted to obtain and what you could obtain?

What do you want to attain in the near future by using eye-tracking?